Professor Phillips argues that these dramatic findings “are not an indictment of appointed attorneys, but rather an indictment of the structural deficiencies inherent in the appointment method of indigent defense.” He discusses these deficiencies and reform efforts in Texas aimed at addressing them. He believes that the reform efforts have not succeeded, however, and argues that “the solution is to create a public defender office with resources proportionate to the DA’s office. Such a proposal is not meant to suggest that a public defender office would be a panacea. But a public defender would reduce differential treatment and eliminate the structural deficiencies inherent in the appointment method.” He concludes by asserting that, “Houston’s distinction as the capital of capital punishment creates a special obligation to provide the most rigorous system of indigent defense possible. The appointment method does not – and arguably cannot – meet such a standard.”
Professor Phillips previously wrote an ACS Issue Brief entitled, “Racial Disparities in Capital Punishment: Blind Justice Requires a Blindfold.” His first issue brief described research he conducted on race and capital punishment in Harris County, and is available here.